Once a small fishing village, colorful Isla Mujeres (meaning "Island of Women") has become a favorite for travelers seeking natural beauty, island serenity, and a slower pace of life—all without compromising its cultural traditions. Winter months offer excellent sportfishing, and the calm surrounding waters are great for snorkeling and swimming year-round.
During high season, boatloads of visitors pop over from Cancún for a taste of the island life. The midday rush is a boon for vendors and hagglers offering every kind of service from hair braiding to beach massages. By late afternoon, though, the masses disappear and return to their big-city nightlife and the comforts of the mainland. Those who stay behind discover that on Isla Mujeres, worldly concerns fade with the setting sun.
Isla has about 16,000 permanent residents, many of whom earn a living selling fish at the docks or plates of food outside their homes. There are plenty of opportunities to practice your Spanish, and you’ll find that most locals beam when you try. Taxi drivers are genuinely interested in sharing details of the island’s history and telling you about their families who were born and raised here.
The minute you step off the boat, you’ll get a sense of how small Isla is. The sights and properties are strung along the coasts, and there’s not much to the interior except for two saltwater marshes where the Maya harvested salt centuries ago.